Circling the proud HATE CRIME wagons - Is the 2014 Gay Games host city cleveland ohio safe for athletes? - assault in tremont

Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Sat, 11/16/2013 - 20:40.

We’ve all heard about the anti-gay laws in Russia causing concern over athlete safety at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. In 2014, the 9th Gay Games come to Cleveland, Ohio, with 10,000 LGBT athletes visiting over a week in August. Many, if not all of them, will visit Tremont, the urban revitalization success story just south of downtown, where, famously, Iron Chef Michael Symon began his career over a decade ago at what is now called Lolita. Tremont’s transition from ethnic steelworker neighborhood to inner city wasteland to urban foodie art walk paradise is well known.

On Friday night, October 25, me and a friend (who’s not even gay) got gay bashed right across the street from Lolita (UPDATE: Yelp pulled the review — see below). At the epicenter of Tremont, Professor & Literary, sits Polish National Alliance Post #1, a remnant of the old South Side (as Tremont was once known). I’ve been a “member” of Post 1 for 2 years — the $10 “membership” is a rarely enforced requirement for access to the cheap beer and loose standards these “non-profit” ethnic “veterans halls” enjoy.

It was ugly as a gay bash could get without there being blood. Random dude (who I’ve since learned is aging neighborhood drunk Post 1 regular Frank Mack, who lives 2 blocks away) walks up to us at the end of the bar, asks if we’re gay, I joke yeah, ha ha we just got back from San Fran after gettin’ hitched. Jokes sometimes pull the air out of a balloon. Not this time. Mack says his son “ain’t no faggot”, calls us both “faggots” before putting a forearm into my friend, staring, then taking a victory lap around the bar.

This is why young gays decide to stay in The Closet. I know. I can’t change the past, but I can try to fix the future.

I look at the bartender and ask, quite angrily, if she’s throwin’ this guy out or if I’m calling the cops. Mack then stops at the bar in front of the owner, Colleen Kowalski, who’s watching it all go down, aggressively smacks the bar with his hand, then heads toward me. I was cornered, so I had to decide if I’d fight, or just stand there. I just stood there. Mack swings at me 4-5 times, connects a few times, knocking a bar light off the wall, which finally prompted a patron to get him off me and push him outside.

Then I got thrown out. After taking a breath or two, I ordered 3 beers for my crew, Colleen brought back only 2, saying I yelled at her daughter the bartender, and had to go.

Cleveland’s had a spate of gay hate crimes lately, a town hall was held last week to address it. I was encouraged to attend, and there, 3 city councilmen, the chief of police, and gay rights advocates implored very reluctant me to file a police report. So I did. Almost two weeks after the assault, Frank Mack is still wandering around Tremont, telling people the absurd lie I tried to touch his penis (ha?) so he’s justified in his gay hate crime.

This hate crime was announced. Proudly.

Most gay hate crimes aren’t so clear cut, usually launched in dark quiet empty corners by unknown assailants who disappear into the night without any witnesses. Not this time. This hate crime was announced. Proudly. The first victim isn’t even gay, the second warned the bar owner it was comin’. Half of Tremont knows who Frank Mack is, where he lives, what he did that night. A full bar of witnesses watched it in real time, including the owner Colleen Kowalski and her bartender daughter. It’s not some big mystery.

A direct attack, dismissive downplaying, brushing under the rug, like it never happened — this is why young gays decide to stay in The Closet. I know. I spent my entire youth in The Closet, and it destroyed my life utterly. Being half Polish, in a Polish hall, where I’m a member, in a neighborhood I’ve been in and out of for 9 years, (where I was even on the ballot in 2010) where part of my family first settled 100 years ago, I recognize this culture starkly.

A gay kid sees it all very clearly, too. You’re the bad guy if you report a crime everyone saw but ignores, then, you’re out of The Closet. So instead you keep your mouth shut, in The Closet you stay, while it sucks your life dry, damaging the people you love, your community, a ticking time bomb. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Frank Mack may have been drunk off his ass, but he knew exactly what he was doing.

I’m an adult out bi now, still recovering from the debris of my decision to stay in The Closet. Blowback from a mistake I made from That Closet 12 years ago haunts me daily. I need to be part of a gay hate crime investigation like I need a hole in my head. But this? I don’t put up with no mess like this. Not anymore. I can’t change the past, but I can try to fix the future.

The longer Frank Mack walks the neighborhood he terrorized the night of October 25, the more shame falls on Tremont and Cleveland. The more likely there’s another victim of a hate crime. And the less likely anyone attending the Gay Games in 2014, or any gay person at all, will feel safe at Professor & Literary, at Michael Symon’s place across the street, or anywhere else in Tremont.

UPDATE 11/8/13: Huh. Looks like Yelp shook down the Polish Hall for a few bucks, and pulled my initial review. From email — “We wanted to let you know that we’ve removed your review of Polish Legion Amer Veterans because of privacy concerns….We hope you will continue to participate on Yelp while keeping our Content Guidelines in mind.”

Circling the proud hate crime wagons

Is the 2014 Gay Games host city safe for athletes?

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